Today I got to sit and chat with Festival Advance Manager Aoife Ahern, who has worked for over twenty years with extraordinary talent across the Music & Events Industry. From advancing large scale Festivals of 80,000+ (on behalf of MCD/Live Nation for Denis Desmond) such as Oxegen, Marlay Park, Slane Castle, Dublin Castle, HiFi Festival, Trinity Ball, Croke Park plus many more, her resume is just as impressive as the lady herself.
Her role is to handle and deal with all contracts, riders and logistics for the client. Acting as the main point of contact for each artist and looking after all matters pertaining to agents & management. And who might the ‘client’ be? Aoife has toured with the elite of the music world, such as Prince, Ceelo Green, Gavin Friday (U2), Billy Ocean, Stereo Kicks, One Direction, Beyonce, Chris Brown and Arcade Fire plus many more in over 20 years of working in the industry.
Anyone who has met Aoife Ahern wouldn’t find it hard to believe how she has made such a big name for herself amidst such huge personalities and mega-star acts. Her eyes always have that welcoming glint in them that Ireland as a Nation is beloved for in its hospitality. Her smile is contagious and her laughter bellows through the room diminishing any air of despondent gloom. So of course those who are deemed as the demi-gods of the world would want her around them, assisting in their reign and helping them along the way.
Upon meeting Aoife, her charm echoes long after you part her company. Etched in the memory as one of them kinds of people who just brighten up a room. No wonder she will work along side the likes of Michelle Obama and Elon Musk. Even they know that this is a special kind of woman. And one whom you’d like on your team. Her style and panache in how she works closely with artists and clients has lead her to form sincere working relationships with many of them.
Without further ado, lets get down to our chat…
You have worked for over twenty years with extraordinary talent across the music & events industry, can you tell us how your journey in music & events as a career began?
I was 15 and a friend called Andrea who worked for a club in Cork called Zoes, got the flu and asked me to cover for her doing flyers. Within 6 months I was booking international talent and working for several clubs around Cork.
The first act I ever booked was DJ Swing who won a Mobo award to do a Club fashion show. I was working for a cool clothes shop called “Religion” at the time. Mandy Young ran every hip hop nights that were happening at the time so I got to know all the Fresh n’ Funky Dj’s. As time passed, I moved to Dublin for College, this guy called Gillie Robertson (promoter of Fresh N’ Funky London) reached out and asked me to do a hip hop night in a venue called HQ (The Academy) in Dublin, which I made a success of and a man named Brian Spollen noticed that I was good.
At the time he was about to open a super club called Spirit, he called me and asked me to work for him. From there, I never looked back. After many years advancing festivals, Artists would ask me to join them on tour, eventually I said yes and I began Tour Managing Gavin Friday – on his Catholic Tour. It really all took off from that point onwards.
Event coordinators control an event from conception to clean up. But can you tell us more about what the duties of an Event co-ordinator and advance manager entail?
Basically once an act is confirmed by a booker, it’s then handed to the production manager and we then split the information. I handled all things non technical that are contractually obliged and the production manager oversees all things technical. It varies greatly from each show, but basically I arrange flights, hotels, ground transport, visa’s, accreditation, guest-list, riders and I am the point of contact for any issue that may arise.
You just completed a 50 date worldwide tour with JayZ and Beyonce. You’re on first name basis with one of the biggest stars on the planet. What was it like working on such a huge production? And how many crew members were you over to make it happen?
It was incredible and I worked with an amazing team of over 500+…the best thing was all the amazing women I met who worked so hard and were so much fun. It was insanely busy, far bigger than the Formation tour. At times it was hardcore, basically back to back stadiums, but I made some amazing friends, seen some amazing places, learnt so much and roared with laughter on a daily basis.
You have worked at large scale festivals and events from 200 to 80,000 capacity such as Oxegen Festival to Prince, One Direction, JayZ & Beyonce etc, how much preparation goes into preparing a small scale event versus large scale events?
Hahahaha…an enormous amount, but what you realise is every person plays a role to make the tour a well oiled machine. No persons contribution is too big or too small. The basis is always the same, just the size and magnitude that varies….and you are constantly learning. No two days are ever the same, just like no two tours are ever the same.
What is your morning routine, to get you through long working days?
Hot shower & a very strong cold triple espresso …hahaha!
How do you split your time between being on the road and your downtime?
I love to work, its feels like home so they blend into one.
When I work – I work hard and when I’m home I sleep hard. Simple as that. I’m very grateful and I have an extraordinary life getting to see these places and meet amazing people, but everyone needs to rest and recover, so I do plenty of it.
How do you choose who you work with?
I have been very lucky and I like people. All the artists I have worked with have been lovely. The music industry is still based on your reputation and about who you know, once you are in it, friends recommend you…this is my 22nd year – luckily I now have many friends and they seem to like me, so touch wood!
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Dublin?
Oh that’s such a hard question…there are so many. Coppinger Row – I love Marc and Conor and they have been friends since my early years in Dublin and the food is so good. Uikyo – I love the atmosphere and great food, its almost like cheers, you always meet some one you know and if you end up in there later in the evening, you will no doubt end up singing and lots of dancing …the music is always great. Other than that, I love Lola and Bunsen Burger and Pho in Temple Bar….so so good.
Your greatest food pleasure?
My mums favourite dinner, smoked haddock, baby peas, boiled potatoes and white sauce. It always reminds me of her. Though the dish that never fails is my Daddy’s Curry – every ones loves it, much like him. It’s delicious especially the fact he always makes homemade chips with it. A classic Cork man.
If you could tell your 16 year-old self anything what would it be?
Enjoy the ride, be grateful and have the craic.
As a female member of one of the most male driven industries, what challenges if any, did you face getting your career off the ground? And what challenges do you still face?
I was lucky, I have always had strong women around me, from my mum to my sisters to my best friend Shona Murray. These are women who never settle and always do what they want while still being good people, knowing this made me fearless.
There will always be challenges, even though we haven’t broke the glass ceiling now is our time. To be honest we have been running the show for years, always in the background keeping all the balls in the air. So to any woman my advice would be work hard, be a decent person and stand your ground.
Of all the shows, events and concerts you’ve worked on, which has been the most memorable experience and why?
It would probably be Daft Punk – Alive Tour – Marlay Park. I just clicked with all the touring party and they called me in to the Production office one morning, and handed me Guy’s Gold Helmut and told me to put on, which I did gladly. Then they videoed me dancing around in it. That was a special moment for me. We are still friends to this day and it was like coming full circle in electronic music.
What has been your proudest career moment to date?
Probably working for Prince and never getting fired. Hahaha …I must of done something right. Those were the hardest tours and still my favourite by a long mile.
I learnt so much from him (Prince) and he was an artist who walked his own path. He never conformed or let any one take control. Watching him perform each night was breathtaking.
We did a show in Toronto and after the show went back to our hotel, phone rings, it’s him and he is downtown in a small club where he wants to do a show. We set everything up, he is hanging out with his friends backstage, everyone waits… nothing. Club closes. Everyone leaves. Next thing, he gets up walks to the stage and performs for 2 whole hours to the small number of staff that were left ……..It was amazing.
What advice would you offer someone looking to start out in a career within the music & entertainment industry?
Talk to people in the industry! I say this to young people all the time, go and start conversation, tell people in the industry you want to work, ask them for advise, what have you got to lose!
What women in Ireland, as well as Irish women abroad, do you most admire?
In Ireland I learnt from the best – My mum and my sisters. They are my rocks. I have great friends in Ireland who work in music and are always there with advice or just to make me laugh, such as all my MCD Ladies; from Duchess, Suzie Shorten, Ciara Davey, Rionnagh McNamara and Alicia Hannon. Those are my ladies who I turn to when I need advice or help. Worldwide there are so many but there are a few people who l am so grateful for for their friendship and I consider them mentors – Emma Saxby, Laura Paganucci & Cecile Le Doux – They are great friends, work their asses off but always do it with a smile. They are the kind of women who inspire me.
What are your top three everyday essentials to get you through?
Smile, be kind and always remember to roar with laughter.
If you hadn’t pursued music & events as a career what do you think you would have done?
No idea…I have done this for so long its home. Christ only knows.
What are you favourite ways to keep fit and stay healthy?
Laugh, laugh and laugh. Other than sleep when ever you can, it’s the greatest healer, calmer and energy giver!
Can you share any plans you have in the pipeline?
I am currently prepping the VIP Nation tour for Michelle Obama’s forthcoming book tour which I am so proud to work on. She is an inspiration. She is the kind of woman we all should look at for guidance, inspiration and style, what a lady.